Sunday, August 13, 2017

Frontal Passage


This cup is so wise

On August 12, we set out on a weekend trip to visit Kent and his family in Kalamazoo. I debated about the weather in the days leading up to the trip because of a weak low pressure system forecast to be in the vicinity of Toronto with an associated cold front extending south near the Niagara River. Although thunderstorms were forecast in western New York later in the day, all data indicated that the morning was clear for a safe journey to our former home.

We flew IFR both ways, mostly in visual conditions. The route was familiar and routine, all of the expected things happened, there were no surprises, and even the Guard frequency was free of any especially puerile behavior. What stood out from this flight was the transition through the front. We found ourselves among some benign, yet fantastic cloudscapes. Images tell the story better than words ever could.


Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
12 Aug 2017 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - AZO (Kalamazoo, MI) 4.0 1679.7

Over the eastern suburbs of Rochester, NY. The large strip mall at lower right is Pittsford Plaza.

Over Buffalo, NY

These build-ups became a thunderstorm over Buffalo about an hour later

Threading the needle

Lake Erie from over Ontario, Canada

Lake Erie was muddy from severe storms in the area the night before.

A canal emptying into Lake St Clair...almost to Michigan!

We were vectored directly over Detroit Metro to accommodate a commercial push.

ForeFlight depicted commercial aircraft queued up in pairs to land on parallel runways at Detroit Metro.
The green glide ring shows that we were turned directly into the wind as we crossed over Metro.

The Jackson-Reynolds Airport (KJXN) got a new runway (7-25) and the former main runway, 6-24, was partly removed

Descending toward Kalamazoo

Duncan Aviation at AZO rolled out the red carpet for us!

Ground track from FlightAware showing vectors around Detroit and a few small deviations for build-ups near Buffalo.
That storm over Buffalo popped an hour after we passed through. We could see it building.

The Return

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
13 Aug 2017 N21481 AZO (Kalamazoo, MI)- SDC (Sodus, NY)  3.5 1683.2

Fenton, MI

Lake St Clair from 9,000'

Port Huron, MI

Niagara Falls

Lake Ontario outlet of the Welland Canal and St Catherine's Airport in Ontario, Canada

Shy Bear

Disheveled Bear

Ground track from FlightAware showing vectors around Detroit (again) and a weather deviation near Niagara Falls


  1. Nice shots Chris! That was me waiting in 6ES as you came in. We took our daughter up for her first flight. We went to FZY to meet some family, and she did great! She slept for most of it.

    1. Thanks! I'm sorry that I did not recognize your voice, but I looked up 55W and 6ES, saw that you had the Cessna and did not recognize who had the 140, so I assumed that was you. Obviously, you saw us returning from this trip.

      Congratulations on you daughter's first flight! Mine slept for most of her early flights, too. Make sure you're using hearing protection! We had great luck with the Peltor Jr hearing protectors.

    2. Yea, hearing protection is my biggest concern. I ended up using earplugs with the baby banz earmuffs, and she didn't seem to be uncomfortable. There was one point on final where I descended too fast, which made her suck her pacifier harder. All in all a successful flight.

    3. It sounds like you're taking good precautions. We were able to sell The Bear on the hearing protector because it was kind of like a headset like we wore (without the audio capability) and, naturally, she wanted to be cool and fit in. The trick was getting her to keep them on for the whole flight as an infant, but it generally worked out and later tests of her hearing indicated that everything was normal.

      When The Bear was an infant, I justified gradual descents with ATC more than once by explaining that I had an infant on board. Responses from ATC were always very supportive and helpful in those instances.

  2. Great pics, thanks for sharing! FYI guys....My bride still sleeps on most flights and she's 3x7 plus a few. ;)

    1. I think this is my favorite set of photos for the year. It was a rare treat to see such interesting formations while NOT getting knocked around by the atmosphere.

  3. I wondered what they were up to at JXN last time I went past - sadly, by automobile. Will have to land for another $100 burger to try out the new asphalt next time we're nearby.

    Trips to Kalamazoo are always the best. Beautiful vapor-filled views as always, too!

    1. I was alarmed when I saw the NOTAM at JXN that 6-24 was permanently closed because it was the primary runway. I actually paused my preflight that morning to search for news on the airport to understand what was happening. Basically, they wanted to add overruns for the runway, but 6-24 was too tightly boxed in, so they created another nearly parallel runway to the north of 6-24 where there was more land available.

    2. Makes sense - I think they did the same at OZW (although it was just parallel; the old runway became the taxiway) when they extended it and added an ILS ~10 years ago.

    3. I've seen that approach before, too. In this case, 6/24 is completely going away. It's already half gone.